According to article 25(2) of the United States Universal Declaration on Human Rights, "Motherhood and childhood" are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection". This means that any child is entitled to be protected from being engaged in any form of labor and denied a normal childhood as is typical and necessary for their normal physical, mental and psychological growth. However, this has not been the case, at least not wholly. The global family has tried to put an end to child labor, a nightmare at such a time as this in society. Their efforts have however borne little fruits. The key to the eradication of child labor is dealing with the levels of poverty, especially where it is dire, in the global scene, and that as much as other measures may be put to help deal with the issue, they may not offer a conclusive answer to this problem unless this issue is addressed.
Over the years, legislation has been put in place as a way to combat this issue. However, its effectiveness has not been felt to the levels expected. In the US for instance, there are numerous statutes and rules that are in place to protect minors, the most prominent on being the Fair Labor Standard Act. Generally, it stipulates that for non-agricultural jobs, children below the age of 16 may not be employed. However, those between 12 and 16 may work for limited hours in limited occupations and their counterparts between 16 and 18 may work for unlimited hours in non-hazardous occupations (Edmonds & Norbert102). The law goes on to specifics on the same and the states also break down these into youth empowerment policies. As attractive as these provisions look on paper, the implementation of this law is what has proved a challenge. The present and future trends towards an industrial practice that involves a lot of outsourcing with multiple players (Alexis 2A). It thus makes it almost impossible to follow up and monitor the issue much as it may be in the organizations' spirit and interest.
Furthermore, the laws give way for unnecessary exemptions. This makes it administratively painstaking for their implementation process. There is a list of employment opportunities that a 12-year-old is allowed to exploit, another set for a 16-year-old and so forth. Furthermore, there is the issue of the exemptions that include parental decision-making or supervision and so forth. Therefore, as law enforcement, it becomes quite a daunting task to deal with the voice. Perhaps this explains why up to 7% of the world child laborers are found in various parts of the US. Law on its own is not a solution for most of these children (Fraser & Paul 24). They are more desperate. Indeed, it is more of a reactive short-term measure that would cut the tree but not uproot it.
Another cause that has been put across is that of culture. In most societies, from time immemorial, it is important to train children at tender ages in business and craftsmanship (Hindman 23). Informal learning was the order of the day thus it was not considered as child labor, but as training. This has of course has been phased out but not to the minds of some. The spirit in the philosophy still works for them. Therefore, they would love to imagine that by having their 12-year-old start working in their business, they will grow up to make even better businessmen than they are themselves. According to Hindman, some believe that working instills a level of responsibility and builds character (68). These are obviously misinformed people with low stability. It would be quite interesting to submit that their actual fear is that their children may not be self-sustaining individuals when they grow up. That fear in itself is the fear of poverty. A person free of poverty will be more empowered to make rational decisions and challenge cultural beliefs
Another aspect that ought to feature in the solution is better education. As the fight progresses on this vice, it seems accurate to campaign against it. However, the alternative that they are left with is not a good learning environment in a private school or even one that guarantees academic success. For some of these children, education is not a workable option. Their future only makes sense if they start working now with the hopes that their incomes will cushion them from the effects of illiteracy. They hope that as their able counterparts get rewarded with well-paying jobs, they will have established themselves at least well enough to guarantee that they can afford school for their children. Whereas a free education policy is in place, at least in the U.S for the most part, quality education is not always provided in the institutions that are available. This is a valid point, yet links to the very root cause of the issue; that of poverty.
Poverty, however, is, in my opinion, the root cause of child labor without which very little of this challenge would be seen. Taking Latin America as a case study to this assertion, 27.4 million workers are below the age of 18 in this region. This is alarming of course but interestingly linked to the statistics of the poverty rate in the area. In most of the states in this area, the rate of poverty varies between 41% and 55%. In fact, the ILO estimates that 65% involved in agriculture, 255 in hawking, retail load transfer and such other informal jobs (Edmonds & Norbert 112). Two out of three of these work with their parents. What these facts spell out is that the desperation of the children is the root cause of their plight. For them, work is mandatory if they are to eat or just meet their basic needs. It is important that they combine efforts with their parents at work as the pay is quite low.
Interesting to note is that this is a vicious circle. 20% to 50% of the children stated are born into families where parents are uneducated. The earnings being minimal as stated, the families resort to involving their children in labor. Eventually, most of these children have very little education and thus when they have their own children; they bring up another uneducated generation just like they are.
One may argue that this is not in the US, however, there has been established a link between illegal immigrants and child labor. It is obvious that if the largest percentage of children at work in the U.S are in the informal industry and agriculture. This means that their trade is not documented. Therefore it follows that they may be undocumented, thus unable to access even the most basic facilitates as education. Whether the government accepts and deals with it or not, the global poverty rate will always affect the U.S for as long as it does not stand on a pedestal.
The issue of poverty must be handled from two fronts, firstly that of those living in the United States and those in other countries. First, a concise research should be undertaken on the number of immigrants living in the country whether legal or otherwise. This is because even those living illegally have children and these are the most vulnerable. By not taking them into account we open up a big avenue for the vice to flourish in the country. After a thorough stock-taking process, the country could then decide whether it can sustain them or not. In the case that they decide to work with the immigrants, the country could then work towards ensuring they have social security, mandatory education for the children and a source of income for the parents. This way, everyone in the U.S would be sure to have their children having a chance at education.
In addition, the country must ensure that there is a strict and well-implemented income for minimum wage. It should endeavor to have an economy where even the poorly paid can have a decent living and keep their children in a school, as opposed to enrolling them for unskilled labor, and if not, have the ability to afford such amenities and resources as the internet and libraries so as to boost their education (Alexis 2A). Education and poverty in the global world are linked and almost inseparable. Towards empowerment of the poor and thus reduction of child labor, the government must invest heavily in health care. Most of those involved in child labor are forced into it because either their parents or siblings are ill or unable to take care of themselves physically. If the cost of health care and its availability are not favorable then children are forced to work to feed and take care of their ill parents and/or their siblings. Thus, a nation without the adequate medical facility, especially for the lower class, will always be at a risk of child labor. Though the country is doing a lot, it is not enough in this respect.
Furthermore, the country must do more, not only in making their borders watertight but in ensuring that they assist other countries in fighting poverty. The challenges of child labor and poverty are global in nature and they may not get out of the cycle as individual states. The world's budget towards armory is absurd as compared to that on alleviating poverty. People fight for power and that can be negotiated; however, when people fight because they are desperate - this is a humanitarian crisis (Liebel 72). The government should be involved in lobbying throughout the United Nations and its own contribution towards a more stable economy, especially in the third world countries.
Most of those in child labor, especially in sex and illicit trade, are illegal immigrants from the third world countries who come in to look for a life due to desperation in their home countries. Namibia, for example, spends well over 65% of its G.D.P on payment of own debts to the western nations, while spending less than 20% on education (Fraser & Paul 40). This is the story of many countries. A drowning man, and indeed the country, will clutch at a stone. They sent their young ones to the country out of desperation. Sealing borders are prudent but stop the problem from being associated with the U.S. It does not solve it - there is a need to stretch out a helping hand through initiatives in those countries and foreign aid.
Arguably, child labor is caused by lack of quality education, cultural issues and misguided beliefs, lack of proper laws and poor implementation of the same where they are present, among other factors. However, the biggest contributor underlying all this worldwide is poverty and desperation. If the U.S. were to win the fight, then they must be on the forefront in the global fight against poverty (Fraser & Paul 41). They must ensure that as they implement the child labor laws, their parents are able to sustain the families and that they are helping those beyond its borders to fight poverty in their countries to avoid illegal immigrants sneaking in and carrying out the practice or children being smuggled in and out.